My Corporate Journey – Kemisola Oloriegbe – Nigerian Breweries Ltd

Kemisola Oloriegbe is a Packaging Technologist at Nigerian Breweries – the leading brewing enterprise in Nigeria.

Kemi has a first degree in Mechanical Engineering and a second degree in Industrial Engineering, and is pursuing a Masters in Business Administration with the University of South Wales, United Kingdom. 

She is a Project Management (PMP) and Certified Lean Six Sigma Black Belt (CSSBB) Professional. She is also a Registered Engineer with the Council for Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN).

1. Describe your current role, your key responsibilities and the most critical deliverables?

My current role is Packaging Technologist with Nigerian Breweries Plc. I am responsible for assuring production of quality products across the different production sites in a safe and cost effective manner that meets customers’ expectation.  I develop and manage standard operating procedures and governance documents to ensure that quality products are produced first time right in a sustainable way.

I lead in providing technological guarantees for new product introduction and development, validation of packaging lines and materials and consumer value engineering. The deliverables on my role is equipping the production sites with standards, procedures and global best practices to produce quality products which are safe for consumptions and guarantee consumer’s satisfaction. 

2. Tell us about your company and how it fits in with career goals.

Nigerian Breweries Plc is the pioneer and largest brewing company in Nigeria and is part of the Heineken Operating Companies. It serves the Nigerian market and exports to other parts of West Africa.

Our company was incorporated in 1946 and in June 1949, we recorded a landmark when the first bottle of STAR lager beer rolled off our Lagos Brewery bottling lines. This first brewery in Lagos has undergone several optimization processes and as at today boasts of one of the most modern brew houses in the country.

Thus, from that humble beginning in 1946, our company has now grown into a brewing company with 11 breweries, 2 malting plants and 26 sales depots, from which our high quality products are distributed to all parts of Nigeria and international markets. Nigerian Breweries is a forward thinking company with the vision to – “Wow Nigeria with our great brands, passionate people, and World class performance!”

The company is winning with Nigeria and has the largest portfolio of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages in the country. The company supports my career goal to be a world class professional utilizing cutting edge technologies to deliver quality products, which delight consumers always. My company is very customer and people-centric and it feels great working here. 

3. What are the most important skills sets in achieving success in your role?

It is important to have excellent analytical and technical skills to be able to have a complete overview of the production process and operations in order to deliver the end goal of meeting consumer’s expectation. You have to be thorough in order to improve a process and deliver value to the end users.  

It is also important to be able to utilize systemic thinking to solve problems and deliver long term practical solutions which can be easily implemented. Most importantly is to have excellent communication and interpersonal skills to manage diverse stakeholders and support them proactively. 

4. What were some of your previous roles? How important were those roles in shaping your current role?

I started my career with the company as a Shift Manager Packaging and this gave me the knowledge and experience of managing people on different production lines to deliver quality products. I later joined the projects team as the Startup Manager for the installation of a 36,000 bottles/hour PET line which gave me a good experience and knowledge about PET technology and application.

The project pioneered the innovation and introduction of malt beverages into PET bottles in the Nigerian market and if not the first in Africa, set the pace for others to follow. My team was also the first to introduce the use of amber coloured PET bottles into the Nigerian market.

The different roles have enable me, over the years, to gather numerous experience across different packaging lines from glass, PET, can, keg and flexible packaging.

This year, I also worked in Mozambique to set up the green field plant, which was Heineken’s first brewery in the country and holds the world record for the fastest brewery project completed in 12 months! My role was ensuring that the packaging process meets technological guarantees and delivers the expected standards and quality products to consumers.

This international experience has enabled me to hone my skills and ability to work in a foreign and multi-cultural environment.

My earlier roles in the oil and gas sector and automobile industries also set the tone and formed part of the building block of my career, which has enabled me to accumulate a wealth of experience and expertise to function in diverse roles.

5. What have been some of the key turning points in your career? Have you ever had a change in career direction? If so, how did you handle the change? What lessons did you derived from this change?

During my undergraduate days, I took both science and engineering courses and finished a degree course in science laboratory technology with a view of becoming a scientist, but along the way, I got involved in some engineering projects which fueled my curiosity and motivated me to enroll back for an engineering degree.

Looking back, this has enabled me to have different perspectives with an open mind having the ability to critically examine and analyze possible alternatives before making decisions. I believe my educational background has strengthened my creativity and thought process, enabling me to become a well-rounded leader.

I started my career in the Oil and Gas sector as a process engineer before moving into food and beverage industry. The change was quite challenging at first because I needed to learn new terminologies and concept, which I wasn’t familiar with, coupled with the different work environments.

I was able to manage the transition by self-developing myself for the task ahead and acquiring the right competencies. I also connected with different professional colleagues in the industry to learn from them to get me started on the right foot. What I have learnt from my career change is the ability to be flexible enough to learn new things. 

6. What makes your role interesting? What do you enjoy most about your role? What has been the role of mentors and family in the achievement of your professional goals?

The opportunity of having to work in a production company to deliver quality products, which constantly delights consumers makes my role interesting.

What I enjoy about my role is the ability to conceptualize and innovate new ways of constantly improving a process through an end-to-end approach. I am always up to date on new trends, technology and application and this makes my role very exciting. 

7. Briefly, what is the typical day like in your role and company?

My typical day start with having a detailed and holistic plan of how to achieve business priorities. I engage my manager and colleagues for concession and alignment when necessary and follow up with execution.

Everyone in the company has different roles working together in synergy to deliver utmost consumer’s satisfaction. I am always prepared to respond swiftly to tackle an issue when the occasion arises.

8. What challenges do you face in delivering on your current role and how do you overcome them?

Working in a production company has its own inherent challenges. There are numerous processes that you have to constantly keep an eye on, and have a good overview to avoid unexpected results.

One way I have been able to overcome them is to appropriate time and plan my work routines proactively to avoid surprises. I interface with multiple stakeholders and other functions within the business. It is important to stay abreast of all that is happening and work with available information to support business priorities. 

9. What is the status of the sector in which you operate in the region and Africa and what do you think are the opportunities, challenges and market trends in the sector?

Nigerian Breweries is in the food and beverage sector and holds the largest market share. There are numerous opportunities for the African continent because of the growing population.

The challenges in Nigeria are centered on inadequate infrastructure, especially power.  Power is a big issue which affects manufacturing companies quite negatively. Other issues are poor funding and distribution channels.

However, opportunities still abound in Africa, especially Nigeria, because of the growing and vibrant youth populace which are below 30 and represent about half of the entire population. There are vast amount of natural resources in the region, which are not yet fully exploited and holds high gain for people and enterprise willing to invest.

Despite the challenges, Africa still holds huge opportunities and it is the people that arrive early to maximize its potential that will reap the highest rewards.

10. How do you wind down after a hard day at work? What are our personal hobbies? How do these hobbies contribute to your personnel and professional development?

My personal hobbies include swimming, playing a good game and catching up with families and friends. When I have lot of time, I usually pen down my thoughts through writing and carrying out research on specific interests. My hobbies help me to keep fit and also enable me have a good vibe of what is happening around me.

11. What are some of the personal or community activities you engage in to develop yourself or your community?

I am a volunteer mentor for young ladies mentorship program where I mentor young ladies on career choices and personal growth. I am also a member of a project management social good initiative where we are involved in community projects within our immediate society to advance the livehood of people and the environment.

I also manage a social media page called SMEFOODNETWORK on Instagram and Facebook which serves as a food and beverage community for small and medium scale businesses. We provide our community with resource materials to equip food entrepreneurs to succeed and build sustainable businesses.

More so, I am passionate about sustainable development goals, which I believe will make the world a better place. I lend my voice, time and resources to causes centered on sustainable environment, responsible production and consumption, quality and affordable education, inclusion and diversity and the pursuit for zero hunger. 

12. How can young people who may aspire to a career choice like yours plan their journey?

It begins with a having clear career interests and acquiring the right capabilities and skillsets to enable you get into the industry.  It is also important to identify your strengths as this will go a long way to guide your career choices and enable you have long time prospects in the industry.

13. What else would you want to do in the future? What would you want to accomplish in your career before you step away from the industry?

My goal is to have a complete overview of the industry and hone other competencies apart from my core competencies, which is part of the reason I am pursuing an MBA. I look forward to the future to manage a manufacturing company that is customer eccentric, people focused and in pursuit of utmost excellence in delivery of products and services while leveraging on the use of technology to create impact in a safe and sustainable way. 

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